A Conversation for Training Your Pet
Rats and Mice
Sea Change Started conversation Nov 29, 2000
Rats and Mice are strongly smell-oriented. Include a small sample of their bedding in which they have been raised into their new habitat, and they will be more comfortable. They are also much more comfortable if you give them a cottage cheese carton (mouse) or shoebox (rat) with a small door cut in it as a place to hide and have their bedding.
Both species feel the need to mess with their water dish, so it is much cleaner to get a vacuum operated invert waterspout thingy. Tap the ball in its nose a few times while they are near, and they will get the idea that water can be had. If not, wait until they are thirsty and try again. Particularly dumb mice may need a jarlid of water placed under the spout to get them used to being in the right area when they are thirsty. The ball needs to be sufficiently small that the critter can move it with it's tongue easily, otherwise, teeth will come into play and the spout ruined.
Both species are pretty omnivorous. Neither species is particularly nutrition smart, so it is better to get them lab blocks with everything mixed in, or to make sure only to feed them a cmoplete mix, and only what they will eat entirely in a few days. I find most commercial/laboratory foods don't have enough short-lived nutrients, so I give them a bit of salad every week, and toss occasional moths and stunned flies in their cages to be hunted down and eaten
You must either feed them a prepared lab block that has an abrasive in it, or provide them something to chew. This is the only way to discourage them from chewing on the furniture. Niether species is smart enought to determine you are the source of squirted water, and so squirt guns works on them, too.
When they are in their cage, they will always 'go' in the same spot. Rats naturally defecate in the same spot, and it the defecation spot must smell familiar, so you can let them out on your bed/couch to play without fear. In any case, your rat or mouse will stick to the edges of the thing before exploring further out where you can see them.
Mice are poop-machines and fairly untrainable about this. They also mark where they have been with small spots of mouse-urine, and mice are pungent. They will not feel safe in any place not marked, so if you need to, say, get them to stay still so that you can give them medication with a gavaging needle or somesuch, it helps to smear the box or cloth your are going to catch their claws on with the peed-on part of their bedding.
How to get the rodent to recognize you: They use their whiskers to greet each other. Either touch the tips of their whiskers lightly when you say hello, or use your moustache. You can get rats to come to their name by associating their name with a sound (I click my tongue) and then saying their name. Having a pumpkinseed, a maize kernal, or other treat is very helpful in this.
Both species view a curled hand as a grasping talon, to be feared. You are more likely to get them to recognize food if you hold your palm out flat. Gradually bringing it in from the tips of your fingers to the center of your palm trains them to get picked up. With enough positive associations, they will come right up to your open hand, walk onto it, and settle in for a ride or a grooming. In any case, if you make a sound and associate it with treats, they will learn to come out during the day to investigate when they hear it, so you can see and play with your animals awake when you are.
Rats are pretty smart and can be taught a few tricks. Both critters are arboreal and are exquisitely aware of where sharp drops are, and you can use this to your advantage as you determine what they can do. Mice will learn only one or two things.
Both critters are naturally clean, like cats. If they are not clean you need to change their cage (save some old stuff so they can smell it and still feel comfortable) or they are sick.
Most domesticated rodents also have a tendency for cancers in their geneset. Taking them to the vet is fairly useless for this.
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